To all staff involved in the election coverage – the Canberra Bureau, state bureaus, production staff and editors – I offer my sincere gratitude.
I believe our coverage was fair and impartial, unlike that of our competition. It was interesting to listen to Max Suich on ABC radio on Friday rating the media coverage, and praising ours as the best and most balanced. I’m sure those who read our editorial on Saturday would know how Michael and I feel about the coverage of our competition. Federal elections, like budgets, are a showcase for the national daily and we have come up with the best angles and the sharpest coverage.
I’m particularly grateful to Dennis Shanahan who, as usual, had it right all year, but cops a lot of criticism for being correct. Sid Marris also earns special credit for COS’ing the election coverage for six weeks. A heroic effort indeed.
Editor in Chief
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CRIKEY: It is worth taking this as the lead-in to a debate about how the various media outlets performed. We reckon most of the News Ltd papers were too soft on John Howard but The Australian certainly had arguably the most interesting and diverse coverage and commentary, even if it was a little biased.
We shouldn’t leave Crikey out of the equation here as we’re also open to some introspection. One criticism of our coverage was that we didn’t offer enough detailed policy analysis and instead focused too much on the light-hearted stuff and the polls. However, we did feel this was partially redeemed with our election editorial which has now had a whopping 10,000-plus page views.
Please send your feedback about how we and other outlets performed during the campaign.
Meanwhile Janet Bolt-Akerman writes:
While you contemplate Chris Mitchell’s claim at impartiality, it is interesting that The Australian’s opinion page editor Tom Switzer has just outed himself as a John Howard fan in three different pro-Howard articles.
There was this week’s effort in The Asian Wall Street Journal although you need to be a subscriber to read.
However, we particularly liked this paragraph:
“Mr Latham became opposition leader after he made a national name for himself by savagely (and crudely) ridiculing Mr Bush and Mr Howard on Iraq. In the process, he won the hearts and minds of most of the nation’s media and intellectual sophisticates who complain about Mr Howard’s close ties with President Bush and his “neocon” sidekicks. In the lead-up to the war, Mr Latham described Mr Bush as “flaky,” “incompetent” and “dangerous,” while dismissing Mr Howard as the US president’s lap dog and conservative parliamentarians as “a conga line of suckholes” doing the Texan cowboy’s bidding on Iraq. Of course, legitimate criticisms of the Iraq venture were welcome, and Australians like a larrikin, but apparently most do not want a Michael Moore impersonator to be the nation’s commander in chief.”
Then you have last week’s offering in the Wall Street Journal Europe which again requires a password.
Here are a couple of “balanced and impartial” paragraphs from that pre-poll effort:
“It may be the case that Mr Howard’s unqualified support for the Iraq war has increased the nation’s likelihood of being a terrorist target, but he is nevertheless considered a safe pair of hands and more capable of dealing with terrorist threats than the inexperienced and loud-mouthed challenger, Labor leader Mark Latham. When bombs are going off in the backyard — Bali in 2002; the attack on Australia’s embassy in Jakarta last month — the very last thing the nation needs is what Paul Keating once promised to give the people: “a touch of excitement.” Why would Australians want colorful characters with delusions of grandeur at a time when the circumstances demand a cool, calm and collected commander in chief?”
Then you also have this month’s QuadrantMagazine, edited by popular Crikey contributor Paddy McGuiness.
These merely confirm what many readers have long suspected: that The Australian’s opinion page has moved in a hard Right, pro-Howard direction since Michael Stutchbury and Chris Mitchell lured Tom Switzer across to News Ltd three years ago.
Sure, Switzer allows token space to old lefties like Phillip Adams and Ross Fitzgerald and Labor hacks like Michael Costello and
Geoff Walsh, but this pales in comparison to the many pro-Howard conservatives that Switzer has published on his page in recent years.
It’s not just a matter of his regular columnists: Costello stooge Glenn Milne, the skanky-ho Janet Albrechtsen, CIA point man Greg Sheridan, economic rationalist Alan Wood, and the other Howardphile Dennis Shanahan. On any given day, you can be sure that he’ll publish some member of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy.
Is it any wonder The Australian’s opinion page was so partisan during the election campaign?